Sally Benjamin Young, a spokeswoman for Lundbeck’s U.S. subsidiary that makes pentobarbital, would not disclose how much pentobarbital the company manufactures. However, using the drug for executions is not what the company intended and “goes against everything we’re in business to do,” she said
March 25, 2011
Danish manufacturer Lundbeck has today missed a major and historic opportunity to change the face of the U.S. capital punishment system. By choosing not to put measures in place to prevent its drugs being used to kill people, the company has opened its doors to executioners all over the country.
Lundbeck and its shareholders will now be responsible for potentially hundreds of deaths, as executing states snap up Lundbeck’s pentobarbital, a dangerous and experimental lethal injection drug, to kill prisoners.
Recent shortages of the anaesthetic sodium thiopental have forced prisons in Mississippi, Texas, Oklahoma and Ohio to abandon the standard three-drug protocol used by the majority of executing states, turning instead to pentobarbital as an untested alternative. As the only licensed supplier of pentobarbital in the United States, Lundbeck has the power to halt countless executions by putting in place ‘end-user agreements’ with its customers. Such agreements would stop intermediaries selling Lundbeck’s chemicals on to state penitentiaries, thus preventing Danish drugs from ending up in the veins of condemned prisoners.
According to a source within Lundbeck, the company’s managers were so afraid that their distributors would not like their amended contracts that they decided to avoid taking action.
Lundbeck’s decision will open the floodgates in terms of encouraging executing states to adopt pentobarbital for use in executions. The method is considered highly dangerous because the drug, a sedative, was not designed for executions and has no clinical history of such use.
Reprieve Investigator Maya Foa said:
“By refusing to alter their contracts, Lundbeck has effectively elected to become the primary supplier of drugs for U.S. executions. They have consistently declared their desire not to facilitate capital punishment, and yet presented with the opportunity to turn their words into deeds, they have rejected it. This is an extremely disappointing and cowardly response.”